Back to school time also means the return of more children on motorists’ commutes. Between kids taking the bus, walking, riding their bikes or being dropped off at school, motorists need to be more vigilant in order to keep everyone safe.
“It's never more important for drivers to slow down and pay attention than when kids are present – especially before and after school,” the National Safety Council stated on its website.
Here are some tips from the NSC to make back to school time safer for motorists and families alike:
Make sure you know your school’s drop-off procedures and follow them.
In addition, the following apply to all school zones:
• Don't double park; it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles
• Don't load or unload children across the street from the school
• Carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school
Walking to school or riding the bus
Most children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are 4 to 7 years old, are walking, and are hit by the bus or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus, according to the NSC’s website.
Many local school districts and law enforcement agencies are cracking down on motorists illegally passing buses.
In addition to following school bus stop-arm laws, motorists can help keep children safe:
• Don't block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, forcing pedestrians to go around you; this could put them in the path of moving traffic
• In a school zone when flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection
• Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign
• Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks, and in all residential areas
• Don't honk or rev your engine to scare a pedestrian, even if you have the right of way
• Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians
• Always use extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians wherever they may be, no matter who has the right of way
• If you're driving behind a bus, allow a greater following distance than if you were driving behind a car. It will give you more time to stop once the yellow lights start flashing.
• Never pass a bus from behind – or from either direction if you're on an undivided road – if it is stopped to load or unload children
• If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop
• The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus
• Be alert; children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks
Riding a bike to school
Though bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicles, young riders may be harder to see and not be able to properly determine traffic conditions, according to the NSC.
• When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly, and leave three feet between your car and the cyclist
• When turning left and a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, wait for the rider to pass
• If you're turning right and a bicyclist is approaching from behind on the right, let the rider go through the intersection first, and always use your turn signals
• Watch for bike riders turning in front of you without looking or signaling; children especially have a tendency to do this
• Be extra vigilant in school zones and residential neighborhoods
• Watch for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars
• Check side mirrors before opening your door
By exercising a little extra care and caution, drivers and pedestrians can co-exist safely in school zones.